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I have asthma, and I am a runner.
Yes, I realize that these two descriptors tend to be antithetical to one another. Believe me, I know that they are. If I don’t take a few puffs of my inhaler at least a few minutes before I start to move my feet and my body, I will feel it. I will feel a burning chest, a closing throat, a liquifying voice box that makes me hack.
It is not pleasant.
Still, I love to run. There’s something about the movement, the steadiness of it, that makes me feel strong and safe. I’ve tried to run most of my life, and only in the past few years have I stuck to it (and to an inhaler) enough to feel it, even to crave it.
I found myself craving it last week as I tried to lay still and soak in a yoga nidra practice with Vanessa Paletta, my yoga teacher’s voice tethering me to a dream-like reality where I can rest and let my mind slow down. I struggled to slow down; struggled to list to her voice; struggled to relax every bone and fiber of my body.
We talked afterward and I realized it was because I hadn’t run that day, but had planned to.
And like the idea of running lodged in my mind and made my whole body restless, as we set our intentions for the evening, my mind kept turning over the phrase pictured above:
“May I not feel stuck in the pace that I set.”
These words became a rhythm in my brain as I lay there, fighting the calmness. Determination became my pulse as I repeated the words like a prayer, a prayer I myself have to answer, a prayer that felt like a boundary being drawn around me, but a fluid one; one that will move with me.
My words for 2021: “keep moving forward.”
I cannot express the stark reality these words became for me—culminating, ultimately, in three big moves:
- deciding to go part-time in my job as a marketing manager
- taking on freelance writing and marketing work
- moving with my husband to Raleigh, North Carolina
Oh, and I also made some big moves forward with my writing:
- wrote a first draft of a book
- self-published a poetry book, Psalms of Deconstruction
- began the second draft of the full-length book
- wrote & released an Advent study
It has been a year of movement, indeed (read: leaps, bounds, dreams-come-true type of movement). And so, as I’ve thought about 2022 and what lies ahead, I still see that movement forward happening. In fact, I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon. So the words bubbling up to the surface this year?
I first read it in an email, an endurance sports quote:
“Forward is a pace.”
It struck a chord in me that I couldn’t shake then, over a month ago. So I’ve decided to take its cue and sit with it as the phrase of words I am choosing for this upcoming year.
My Words for 2022: Set the Pace
As I laid on my yoga mat last week, spinning these words over and over again in my mind, I realized that I had started the practice reflecting on the question:
What’s not helping you up the mountain?
I wrote down my answer after several moments mulling over it: “feeling stuck.” I am an emotional creature, and damn proud of it these days, but there are still those minutes and hours and days I lose to those emotions that feel like sticky tar on my hands and feet—keeping me from tasks and coping mechanisms that aid in the forward motion that has been set this year.
Setting the pace means keeping that forward momentum going, and I find myself afraid of feeling stuck. So this mantra arose and became a desperate, dry-throat croak for me, even in the silence of my living room:
“May I not feel stuck in the pace that I set.”
When I first read that quote on pace, I wrote these words:
I’ve set my pace, even just looking back over the past week (releasing my poetry collection, beginning to set up Advent, writing 4-ish chapters on the book).
It’s a pretty breakneck pace, if I’m being honest. It feels a little overwhelming. But it also feels like the pace I’m meant for. The pace I’m capable of, because of I’m not trying to do it alone.
I feel stuck easily, how about you? Paralyzing thoughts, unending thoughts, monotonous tasks, they all take up time and space that I’d rather devote to forward motion, purposeful time-spent, life-giving activities. But most of these deserve our attention and our care. Not because they are sticky tar that we are stuck in, but because they are invitations to slow down, reset, and take whatever pace we’re at seriously, no rushing ahead or quitting. Just staying, exactly where we are meant to be.
I think I got a tiny glimpse of that this year, when I finished the first draft of my book and had a call with a writer/spiritual director/internet-friend, Charlotte Donlon. She looked over that first draft, and gently turned her gaze to me across a Zoom screen and said,
What if there is more to this story?
She knew what I couldn’t tell yet—there was more to the story than this simple first draft. There was more to uncover and find. Starting again didn’t mean I lost all forward momentum; instead, it meant slowing down in order to find that “more” that awaited me.
And believe me when I tell you, the waiting was worth it and I cannot wait to get this book in your hands (shameless plug: get on my email list to be the first to hear all about it!).
The waiting was a form of pacing myself.
I had to slow down to find it. I had to rest, to not write, to lean into prayer and meditation and daydreaming about the stories I had just begun to tell.
In 2021, I’ve discovered pace. I’ve set a speed, a forward motion that I will not give up on easily.
In 2022, I’ll do what it takes to keep moving, at whatever pace each moment needs, and see where the path ahead of me goes.
The boundary lines of cadence and rhythms—a runner’s best friend—will move with me. The pace is the boundary; it will keep me safe and secure and ever, always, moving forward.